“I Come Looking For You With Haaaaaaaitians…”
July 11, 2013
I often think of our Haitian ancestors who refused to be treated as animals, forced to cultivate sugar cane in the French Colony of Saint Domingue. At the peak of production, this French colony produced 40% of the sugar and 60% of the coffee consumed in all of Europe. With such great wealth and prosperity coming from the island, France found themselves under attack from British forces. Led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, with over 500,000 African soldiers at his command, he convinced France to grant their freedom in exchange for their help to defeat the British army.
Toussaint L’Ouverture, recognized as the father of Haiti
In 1801, L’Ouverture drafted a constitution for St. Domingue which provided the right to self govern itself as an independent sovereign nation, and decreed that he would be governor-for-life. This infuriated the French Emperor Napoleon, who sought to re-establish slavery in the cash cow that was St. Domingue. That same year, he sent over 30,000 troops to regain control of the island, captured L’Ouverture and sent him to exile where he died in prison a year later. After a few months of oppression under Napoleon, a new leader emerged by the name of Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Dessalines commanded the rebel forces against the French army culminating at the Battle of Vertières. On December 4th 1803, the French colonial army of Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered to Dessalines’ forces. Dessalines then promulgated the Declaration of Independence in 1804, and declared himself Emperor. He renamed St. Domingue after the indigenous Taíno culture term for “Land of Mountains”, or Haiti.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti’s 1st emperor
Why is this important? The Haitian Revolution is the only slave rebellion in world history which successfully resulted in establishing an independent nation. Haiti was the 1st African republic ever established, and the 2nd in then western hemisphere after the US. If it was not for this powerful movement the US would be 1/2 its size.. ending at Missouri. So the next time you think about America, think about those former slaves that refused to accept their current situation and made something happen! They are just as an important piece of American history as the Revolutionary War and the Deceleration of Independence.
Remember, if you don’t know your history, you don’t know yourself!
Next time you see a Haitian, salute them! They are our brothers/sisters and play an important part in our past and present ongoing battle against oppression… Stay Woke!